The True Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercise. It can improve your health on all levels. I’m not just talking about being fit and stronger. Exercise can actually improve your overall health and longevity.

You’ve heard this. You know this. Yet, it might not have totally sunk in…

Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep. And exercise prevents death from any cause (“all cause mortality”).

Convinced yet?

The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.

You don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough. That’s simple enough to fit into even the busiest of schedules. You need to plan ahead and set the intention to make it happen.

The best part is you don’t even have to do a particular kind of exercise. All four types of exercise have health benefits. They are:

  1. Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming)
  2. Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates)
  3. Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi)
  4. Flexibility (stretching, yoga)

Don't forget, all exercise counts, even if it's not doing a sport or in a gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the store and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal.

Let me take a minute to highlight how healthy exercise really is. Here are a few key points.

Exercise for heart health

Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.

Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).

Exercise for brain health

Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the "hippocampus"); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.

Exercise for muscle and bone health

Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.

Remember: balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls.

Exercise for diabetes

People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).

Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re fueling them with sugar in your blood. This helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.

Conclusion

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits of exercise.  By doing just 30 minutes 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health. Even if you’re running a busy schedule it’s important to take breaks from your “to do’s” to tend to your health through movement.

Since there are different benefits for different types, try mixing up what you do throughout the week. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Walking to the grocery store or doing household chores can count too.

If you’re just starting, then pick something you enjoy, get some accountability (exercise tracker or a buddy), and start.

I want to hear from you… What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it?

Recipe (exercise recovery): Coconut Water Refresher

Serves 2

1 cup coconut water
2” piece of cucumber (chopped)
¼ cup raspberries
1 tsp lime juice
1 dash sea salt
1 cup ice
2 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)

Instructions

Blend the first five ingredients until well mixed. Add ice and pulse until ice is crushed.

Pour into glasses or water bottle and add chia seeds. Shake/stir before drinking.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: The chia seeds add extra fiber, protein, and omega-3s.

References:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFBBjynBpSw&t=3s

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-benefits-of-exercise/

https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/prevent_falls_ff.asp

http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/exercise-is-good-for-diabetes

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/healthy-movement

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity

Selina Rose
A holistic nutritionist, writer, non-granola yogi, and coach dedicated to helping you find sustainability in your health so you can play full-out in life (whatever that looks like for you).
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Author: Selina Rose

A holistic nutritionist, writer, non-granola yogi, and coach dedicated to helping you find sustainability in your health so you can play full-out in life (whatever that looks like for you).